10 Ways to Speed Up Your Sluggish Website

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sluggish-website

It’s going to be the hottest week of the year so far here in the UK, with temperatures predicted to hit the mid-30s in celsius. The hot weather makes many of us feel slow and sluggish, but we’ll only have to worry about that for a week or so. If your website’s feeling the same way, cooling temperatures won’t do it any good.

Although internet speeds are at their highest of all time, many websites are still slow to load, particularly on mobile internet connections (and, let’s face it, these are becoming more and more popular ways to connect to the internet all the time). With the popularity of mobile internet growing and growing, it’s never been more important to ensure that your website loads quickly. And let’s not forget, many users in rural areas still have slow internet speeds so keeping your website slick and quick is vital.

Here are ten ways to help your slow, sluggish website feel a little better about itself:

1. Keep HTTP requests to a minimum

If you’re including Flash, CSS, JavaScript and other HTML head elements in your website, these all need to be loaded before the main body of the page. The result is the end user will sit looking at a blank white screen before they see any content, which is less than ideal. Getting rid of redundant technologies and streamlining the ones you need will speed things up no end.

2. Look at your server’s response time

It could well be that you need to move to a new hosting provider or website management company. If the server your website is hosted on is slow, there’s not much you can do about it directly other than move providers. However, there are some steps you can take, and websites such as Yslow can help you to speed up server response times and keep your site slick.

3. Compress images and other elements

Yes, image compression is still an issue. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that smart compression is key here, as many users now have retina screens or high-definition displays which will show up any loss in quality on an image. This could paint your company in a negative light, so you’ll need to strike a compromise on this issue. Even web pages can be compressed using Gzip, which can reduce the download time of your web pages by around 70%.

4. Enable caching

If you don’t change or update your website on a regular basis, allowing elements of your website to be cached can speed things up no end. Effectively, elements of the site will be stored locally on the user’s computer, making them load fare more quickly than having to download them each time even when they haven’t changed. For unchanging elements like CSS, JavaScript and PDFs, this is a vital tweak to make.

5. Optimise your code

The code that makes up a website can often become bloated, with redundant lines, duplication and even unnecessary line breaks and indentation. Keeping your code lean and clean will ensure that it can be loaded much more quickly and reduce the amount of time your potential customer sits staring at a white screen.

6. Use images properly

For example, if you need a 400x200px image on your website, and you’ve found an ideal one which is 4,000×2,000px, it can be tempting to upload that and set the image width to 400px. What then happens is that the entire (ten times bigger) image is loaded and then squeezed into that space. Instead, simply resize it to 400x200px before uploading and cut the loading speed of the image by 90%. Across your whole website, that’ll speed things up no end. Also, ensure you’re using the proper format for the type of image you’re using to keep loading times to a minimum.

7. Optimise CSS

Cut out unnecessary or redundant lines of CSS, make sure your external file is being referenced properly and keep the CSS footprint to a minimum. If you keep it to one external CSS file, too, you’ll be minimising HTTP requests and killing two birds with one stone.

8. Let the main content load first

There are ways to ensure that the ‘above the fold’ content (and its related CSS) loads before anything else, meaning that the end user can view the content they wanted while other, less important, elements on the page load quietly in the background. This ensures the user is kept happy and can view the content they wanted as quickly as possible.

9. Keep plugins to a minimum

If you don’t really need certain elements on your website, get rid of them. Having lots of Flash, videos and other plugins might show your visitors how tech-savvy you are, but it’s also just as likely to put them off and a decent number of potential visitors won’t be able to see the content anyway as their page won’t have loaded before they’ve got annoyed and gone elsewhere. If it’s not necessary, ditch it.

10. Don’t use too many redirects

Redirects are also HTTP requests, which need to be kept to a minimum. It’s recommended that you use an HTTP redirect to take mobile users to the dedicated mobile site, but otherwise it’s best to keep these to a minimum as it can slow down the time it takes for a user to load your website. Again, if they get stuck at this stage, they’ll just be left staring at a blank white screen.

Recent research has shown that almost half of web visitors expect a page to fully load in under two seconds. Once it gets to three seconds, 40% will abandon ship and go elsewhere. And more than half of online shoppers say quick page loading is vital to where they choose to shop. The worrying thing is that the average web page takes 7.72 seconds to load — more than three times the expectations of the average user and more than twice the limit of 40% of users. That means the average website is haemorrhaging 60% of its potential visitors through slow loading times.

If you want some help speeding up your slow and sluggish website this summer, give us a call to see what we can do and how we can bring a little sunshine into your website’s life.

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